Why This Hot Cross Bun Is Worth 600 Words.

David Abbott Sainsbury's Hot Cross Bun Advert Mylk Copy

Easter is almost upon us. So we know what that means: Coles and Woolworths bombarding us with everything Easter until we surrender at the checkout. Believe it or not, it’s not all that bad.

For instance, every time I stroll through my local Woolies, there are Easter eggs, chocolate bunnies and hot cross buns as far as the eye can see. And just to be sure no segment of the market goes hungry, every possible spot is filled.

When it comes to hot cross buns, you’ll find everything from traditional, brioche, extra soft, choc chip, low sugar, high fibre … you get the idea.

But if there’s one area that’s starved of ideas, it’s the ads. Today, it’s rare to see advertising concepts that break through the mundane — the kind of ideas that knock you out of your seat as you read. If we circle back to the buns, the most you will get is ‘Pack of 6 hot cross buns for $3.95.’

Who yawned?

There was a time, though, when advertising something as pedestrian as the hot cross bun was literary art.

Enter David Abbott.

David was a writer and a creative director in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I could go on and on about him, but I won’t. There is one thing you need to know about David: he’s considered to be Britain’s greatest copywriter.

One business his lauded creative agency partnered with was Sainsbury’s (the UK version of Coles and Woolworths.) Sainsbury’s commissioned David to write an ad for their hot cross buns.

Today, many copywriters would roll their eyes at such a task. After all, how much can one write about a currant-loaded wheat roll?

But David Abbott knew there was no such thing as a boring product, only boring ideas. So he got thinking. Then David began researching by quizzing Sainsbury’s buyers. This is where he unearthed nuggets of product information that formed the basis of the hot cross bun ad. Once he had the facts down, he put pentel to pad and got writing. What followed next is nothing short of literary art.

So how does it read? See for yourself — headline and all …

Guard against lightning, fire, shipwreck, whooping cough, sick cattle and failing friendships with a Sainsbury’s wholemeal hot cross bun.

Will the hot cross bun replace the insurance broker? Should all doctors and vets plump for early retirement? Is it time for the lifeboat men to push off?

If tradition and superstition are anything to go by the answer is yes. The hot cross bun, it seems, is the answer to most of life’s problems.

The history of this improbable bun goes back a long way.

In Spring, the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks and Romans all honoured their pagan gods by eating wheaten cakes.

In Greece the cakes were round in honours of the moon and bore a symbol representing the horns of the sacred ox.

The ox was called the ‘boun’ and many experts believe this to be the origin of the word ‘bun’.

As Europe converted to Christianity the sign of horns gradually became the sign of the cross.

 Buns at St. Albans.

Hot Cross buns were first recorded in England in 1361 at an Abbey in St. Albans where the monks handed them out to the poor and needy. The bun was here to stay.

‘One or two penny hot cross buns’ was a popular chant as long as 1733 and for centuries the hot cross bun has had an almost mystical reputation.

Eating them on Good Friday was believed to protect your house from fire.

The buns were used, too, as a kind of all-purpose medicine. They were often hung on a rafter and left to harden.

When sickness struck (as it often did) a small piece of bun was grated and mixed with water or milk to make a healing potion. (Cattle who were feeling under the weather got exactly the same treatment.)

In Ireland, many fishermen would not set sail at Easter without carrying a bun on board to guard against shipwreck.

Even friendships were protected by the bun in a simple little ritual.

Two friends would enter a church and break a hot cross bun in two.

For as long as they kept the two halves it was believed friendship would endure.

(There are still weddings in Ireland where they scorn the lucky horseshoe in favour of the hot cross bun.)

More fibre.

As if this wasn’t enough, Sainsbury’s have added yet another attraction to the hot cross bun.

Two years ago we started making some of our buns with wholemeal flour. They proved so popular that this year we’re making even more of them available.

We don’t promise you protection against life’s ills but we do guarantee you more fibre. (More than 3 times as much in our white hot cross buns.)

We make no claims for the buns’ prowess in blizzard or fire but we do know they freeze and toast very well.

We do claim, however, to use more fruit than many of our competitors.

Currants, sultanas and mixed peel account for nearly one-third of the bun’s weight before baking. (Traditional spices account for the rest of the flavour.)

To really bring out these spices try wrapping the buns in a foil and heating them in the oven.

After a few minutes you’ll see that the hot cross bun has lost none of its potency.

People start appearing in the kitchen, as if by magic.

Words that go down a treat.

Would 600 words for the humble hot cross bun be well received in today’s megabit world? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, the copy goes down as an absolute treat.

If you’re looking for a copywriter to make you some serious dough, pull up a chair and let’s break bread here.

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